NEW YORK -- Oasis' return to an American stage last night probably stands as the let down of the year -- thus far, anyway. After a tumultuous year-and-a-half of gigs, fights, breakups and drug busts, something has changed.
Sad to say, the thrill is gone.
Sure, the crowd still held their lighters aloft
for "Champagne Supernova," and sang along to "Wonderwall," but it seemed that few at Tuesday's gig at the 3,700-capacity Hammerstein Ballroom -- Oasis' first live appearance in the U. S. since the release of their latest album, Be Here Now -- felt they were
witnessing the vanguard of a new British Invasion, as they might have
thought if they'd seen Oasis play across the street, at Madison Square Garden's Paramount Theater, way back in March of
The Hammerstein Ballroom, a refurbished theater with
a beautiful fresco on the ceiling and two wrap-around balconies, has the feel of an opera house (but the acoustics of an oil drum). Back in
the spring, when the Center re-opened after 25 years of neglect, the first
acts to play there were the Orb and the Chemical Brothers. But while
those gigs gave fans a glimpse of a techno future, this one made them
think of the good old days.
Blame the new album. Oasis played eight new songs during the show,
starting off the set with the title track off Be Here Now,
followed by "Stay Young," (a B-side off "D'You Know What I Mean,"), and
then the new single, "Stand By Me." It wasn't until they cranked up the
old favorite, "Supersonic," that most people heard something familiar.
Maybe too familiar...
It's funny, but the old tunes do sound better. Funny, because we're
not talking about the Rolling Stones in their golden age vs. their golden
years. We're talking about a three-year-old band, and nothing on the new
album holds a candle to "Champagne Supernova" or "Live Forever," which
became obvious once they played those two wedged in between "It's Getting
Better (Man!)" and "Fade In/Out."
One new song, "D'You Know What I Mean?", held a bit of promise. But while
on CD it has mind-bending guitars and a fierce driving beat -- almost a
march -- in concert it was a stroll. You wanted to be uplifted and carried
away, but that just didn't happen. Then the entire band walked offstage, and all
but Liam came back for Noel's turn at the mic, doing "Magic Pie" into
"Don't Look Back In Anger." They also did more old rockers like "Some
Might Say" and "Roll With It," and of course the big
hit "Wonderwall," which Noel introduced as "the song that bought us all
the cars and outfits."
In addition to their Saturday Night Live appearance last week and their
scheduled TV date on Late Show With David Letterman today (Oct. 9),
the Manhattan Center show Wednesday night was set for a nationwide FM
Onstage, Oasis was typically immobile, though amusingly intriguing
nonetheless. Liam wore a leather jacket -- with which he used to beat on the
mic stand senseless. He punched it on "Stay Young," and punched it again
after "Roll With It." He really slammed it after "Live Forever," and finally KOed it
after "It's Getting Better (Man!)," leaving a buzz in the sound system that lasted
through several songs.
Once in a while, he'd sit down, leaving guitarists Bonehead (Paul Arthurs) and
Noel to do their stuff. Other times when he was on break, he'd run around a bit,
chat with the folks in the front row, take a nip from his bottle, play footsie with a
beach ball or bounce his tambourine a bit.
In between songs, Noel provided most of the jokes, although between his
Mancunian accent and the awful acoustics, few could make them out.
Throughout the night, Noel sang as well, if not better, than Liam, and he and
Bonehead teamed up for some extended guitar jams at the tail end of
"Champagne Supernova" and "All Around The World." Meanwhile, Bonehead
and bassist Paul McGuigan didn't budge, except to grab some water off the
PA. [Thurs., Oct. 9, 1997, 9 a.m. PDT]
Clearly it's time for the band to rethink its live show. Having seen them three times, I was prepared for Liam
to sit down, walk off, and look bored whenever it wasn't his turn at the
mic. I was ready for him to sing with his hands behind his back, and I
was ready for him to slam the mic around when he was done with his bit
(actually, he seemed a lot more chatty this time, more relaxed than
usual). But that's the point. It was just like last time -- minus the
excitement. And since they don't prance about like Mick Jagger or roll big-screen
videos like U2, there's nothing to distract you from the so-so new tunes
mixed with golden oldies. [Wed., Oct. 8, 1997, 9 a.m. PDT]